Portland Restaurant Luce Prioritizes Staff Safety Over Profit

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April 20, 2021

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Throughout the pandemic, Portland restaurant owners John Taboada and Giovanna Parolari have prioritized their staff’s safety. The couple owns a few restaurants in the same Portland neighborhood—Navarre, Angel Face, and Luce. Luce is filled with vintage touches and traditional Italian products, but has bright, modern accents – somewhere you’d expect to see your Italian grandparents, but also a perfect date night spot.

Andrew Howard, the manager at Luce has found joy in working throughout the pandemic.

“Being able to serve people,” he says, “and give them a sense of normalcy within a dining experience is really gratifying and rewarding, because we’ve been able to do it in a safe and comfortable way.”

Luce has successfully sold their food to-go and offered outdoor dining on their patio every night of the week, but the restaurant is in no hurry to open indoor dining.

“Until the staff was safe and comfortable with it, I wasn’t safe or comfortable with it,” Taboada says. He emphasized the stress levels that arise with indoor dining, despite the CDC’s approval. “For anyone on the staff to have more stress at this point, it’s just not worth it.”

They hope to open their dining room at some point in 2021.

“The rule is that we’re waiting ’til everyone gets vaccinated or has a choice,” he says. “So as long as everyone has had the ability and choice to do it, then at that point we can open.”

Taboada estimates that in the next few months, 85 to 90 percent of the staff will be vaccinated.

“We’re gonna come out of this eventually, and we want to decide what the spirit of the places are,” he says. “When we come out, we don’t have to be what we were when we went in. A year’s passed, things have changed on a lot of levels and we can choose to tweak things here or there, and we can choose to do something revolutionary, in the sense of the business.”

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Photograph courtesy: Francesca Braga

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